August Wedell (1863-1919) was born in Husaby, Västra Götaland Län, Sweden on August 18, 1863 and emigrated in 1887. August's last name was originally Svensson, but was changed to Wedell when he arrived in the United States. A family story recounts that the surname was changed because there were too many incoming Swedes with the name Svensson.
To illustrate the confusion that could happen with names when Immigrants came to the United States, his great granddaughter, Lisa Wedell Ueki, wrote this explanation: My great grandfather was born August Svensson. He had an older brother, Anders Johan, who came to the States first. His older brother changed his surname to Swanson and farmed in the Amery, Wisconsin area. Near Amery is Deer Park. My great grandfather's initial destination was Deer Park and he spelled his surname "Widell" at that time. Eventually he changed it to "Wedell." So within the same family of siblings we have Svensson, Swanson and Wedell.
August arrived in New York City on October 14, 1887, aboard the S.S. Germanic from Liverpool, England (below). His wife to be, Emma Marie Svensdotter, arrived in New York from Oslo, Norway aboard the S.S. Hekla (pictured among the photos lower on this page) on June 23, 1890.
August married Emma Maria Svensdotter, also a Swedish immigrant, on October 23, 1891, at the Saint Paul First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church,located near Swede Hollow Park on St. Paul's East Side, Pastor P.J. Sward officiating. The couple had four children. Three died as infants, but Gustave Edwin Wedell lived until 1996 and has children and grandchildren living in Minnesota.
August first worked at the Capitol as a laborer in 1903 and his name is found in the 1905 Payroll records. He lived at 418 Goodrich Avenue and later at 391 Banfil Street in St. Paul (photo at bottom of page).
August was skilled in working with both wood and stone, as reflected in his tools (see three photos below) and by his higher rate of pay, 24 cents per hour, compared with the 17.5 cents earned by most laborers recorded on the 1904-1905 Capitol pay roll documents (see copy below).
Most of the workers who constructed the Minnesota Capitol belonged to unions. However, it is not clear whether St. Paul laborers were organized during the period when the Capitol was built nor how many laborers or which jobs were represented by a union between 1896 and 1907. So Wedell's union status is currently unknown.
August was killed on July 7, 1919 while working on the construction of the Union Depot when stone above him collapsed and crushed him. (See attached newspaper article, obituary and death certificate.)
Emma did laundry for attorney (later Supreme Court Justice) Pierce Butler, whose brothers were the general contractors for the Minnesota Capitol construction. After August was killed in the Union Depot accident, Butler advised Emma to press for compensation from the responsible comapny, which initially refused to pay the family anything, according to accounts from the family.
August was a member of the Mystic Workers of the World, a fraternal benefit society based in Fulton, Illinois. The organization, founded in 1896, provided life insurance at more reasonable rates for members in the Midwest and northern states. The company name was changed to Fidelity Life Association in 1930 and in 1957 it became associated with Kemper Insurance. A badge, bearing the MWW logo and motto, is shown below. Note the safe, globe and American flag embossed on the lower part of the badge.
Sources: 1904 Payroll, St. Paul City Directory, St. Paul Dispatch, July 7, 1919 and family records and accounts August and Emma's descendants still live in St. Paul.
More detailed information can be found in the attached summary and documents.